Kids who have been breastfed have always had a long list of health benefits, and now researchers have added one more to the list: Good gut flora growth.
According to a study by Duke University's Medical Centre, a unique property found in breast milk is better than infant formula when it comes to protecting newborns from infections and illnesses.
Scientists have added that breast milk helps create colonies of microbiotic flora in an infant's intestinal tract -- or the gut -- which aids in absorbing nutrients and developing a stronger immune system.
"This study is the first we know of that examines the effects of infant nutrition on the way that bacteria grow, providing insight to the mechanisms underlying the benefits of breast feeding over formula feeding for newborns," says William Parker, an associate professor of surgery at Duke and senior author of the study, in a press release.
Gut flora remain important throughout our lives, working against the bad bacteria and helping make sure the good kind stays where it should, according to Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple. In addition, as noted by Huffington Post blogger Dr. Isaac Eliaz, this flora develop in our bodies right after birth, and "can influence behavior throughout our lives by inducing changes in the expression of certain genes that control brain and neurological function."
According to Women's Health, the first few drops of a mother's breast milk are considered to be liquid gold. This liquid, or colostrum, is the thick yellow milk women produce during pregnancy and right after birth, and is rich in nutrients and antibodies. Other studies have shown that breast milk can fight respiratory infections, asthmas, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, according to Women's Health.
Scientists from the Duke University study grew bacteria in samples of infant formulas, cow's milk and breast milk. Researchers tested for a purified form of an antibody called secretory immunoglobulin A, which was found to be abundant in breast milk. This antibody is known to help create and protect an infant's immune system.
While other studies have shown that breast milk should be the first option for newborns, not all mothers are able to breastfeed or support adding milk to a strict vegan diet. One report found that soy protein-basted formulas can work just as well when it comes to brain development, according to the Arkansas Children' s Nutrition Centre.
Upgrade Your Pump
<br>One of the most important first steps to successful breastfeeding is establishing a strong milk supply since nursing follows the laws of supply and demand: The amount of breast milk you produce is directly related to how much your baby nurses. If your baby is having trouble latching on or eating, then she may not drain your breasts and your body will get the message to produce less milk. Pumping can help you keep your supply up if nursing isn't going well -- just pump after your baby nurses. (This will also help you stockpile extra breast milk that someone else can give to your baby in a bottle.)</br> <br>But a hand pump isn't going to get the job done if you need to boost your supply. You'll want a double electric pump (or even a more powerful hospital-grade one that you can rent from your hospital or from <a href="http://www.medelabreastfeedingus.com/" target="_hplink">Medela</a>) so that pumping will be fast and efficient. And even if your baby is a champion nurser, being able to pump quickly can give you the freedom to have someone else feed your baby so you can get a break -- which often helps many moms keep on nursing.</br> <br>Get answers to your <a href="http://www.ivillage.com/how-breastfeed-and-solve-breastfeeding-problems/6-b-443072" target="_hplink">16 top breastfeeding problems</a>.</br>
Know That Discomfort Is Temporary
<br>When you look at other women breastfeeding, it doesn't look painful, but nipple soreness is normal and should dissipate after the first week or so, according to lactation consultant Stacey H. Rubin, author of "The ABCs of Breastfeeding." Ask a lactation consultant or your baby's doctor to make sure your baby is <a href="http://www.ivillage.com/how-breastfeed-and-solve-breastfeeding-problems/6-b-443072#443069" target="_hplink">latching on correctly</a> -- a successful latch is key to keeping pain at bay. "Mothers will often feel relief as soon as the latch is corrected," says lactation consultant Irene Zoppi. If pain lasts during an entire nursing session, or occurs when you're not nursing, talk to a lactation consultant or a doctor.</br> <br>It may just be that one side is easier to nurse on. "Most moms find that one side is easier than the other," says Rubin. "Try breastfeeding on the breast that is least painful first." Mom Dina Cheney found relief with nipple shields for the first few weeks and also skipped one feeding a night and gave the baby pumped breast milk. "It put less strain on my nipples."</br> <br>Connect with other nursing moms in the <a href="http://www.ivillage.com/breastfeeding-ivillage-community/6-a-127420" target="_hplink">iVillage Community</a>.</br>
Get Expert Help
<br>Like any skill, breastfeeding can take time to learn -- and sometimes extra help from an expert is in order. Jennifer Klein breastfed all three of her children past their second birthdays -- one child was even nicknamed Moo for his feeding style. Klein attributes her success to a great support system and a nursing plan. "Find a lactation consultant you're compatible with and lean on her for advice."</br> <br>Yes, it can be pricey to meet with a lactation consultant, but it's worth it when you consider what you'll save in formula costs (not to mention the proven health benefits for your baby.) Call your the hospital where you delivered, contact the <a href="http://www.llli.org/" target="_hplink">La Leche League</a> or ask your baby's doctor to find a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group near you.</br>
Weigh Your Baby
<br>One of the unexpected challenges of breastfeeding is that you can't know exactly how much your baby has eaten the way you can see the number of ounces on a baby bottle. And even if you see the obvious signs (you spot milk at the corners of your baby's mouth, your infant seems satisfied after eating, your breasts feel lighter), it can still be hard to have faith that your baby is getting enough to eat. That's where a scale can be incredibly reassuring: If your baby is gaining weight, then you know that breastfeeding is working. Call your pediatrician's office and ask to stop by for a quick weight check; most doctors or nurses are happy to weigh your child and give you the reassurance you need.</br>
Let Dad Help Out
<br>Dads may not be able to breastfeed, but that doesn't mean they don't have a big role to play. To help with middle-of-the-night feedings, dad Lance Millis did pretty much everything except nurse. "When the baby started crying in the middle of the night, I was the one to get up, take her out of her crib, change her, and get her ready for my wife." The father of two then fixed his wife whatever she wanted to drink, and laid down on the floor to sleep until they were done in case Mom needed something.</br> <br>Holly Whitmore was pleasantly surprised at how much her husband helped. "He stood by while the lactation nurses helped me in the hospital, and sure enough, when we brought our daughter home, he was able to help me get her latched on," she says. "He also reminded me of pointers the nurses had given when I was too frustrated to remember." Having Dad help out can help you feel like nursing isn't all on your shoulders. (And it doesn't have to be: Pumping means Dad can feed your baby a bottle of breast milk, too.)</br>
Find Bosom Buddies
<br>Any breastfeeding mom will tell you that getting support is key. For mom Katie Ruckel, joining a breastfeeding group when her son was three weeks old was a turning point.</br> <br>"It made me realize that most women don't stick the baby on the breast after birth and nurse like it's second nature," says Ruckel, who learned that everyone else had the same problems she did. "I had no idea how hard it really was; talking to people in the same boat kept me from quitting."</br> <br>Getting reinforcement at home is important, too: Studies show that a supportive partner has a positive impact on a new mother's choice to breastfeed and leads to a longer duration in breastfeeding, adds Rubin. So let your partner know about the many benefits of breastfeeding.</br> <br>Visit <a href="http://www.llli.org/webus.html" target="_hplink">La Leche League</a> to find a local breastfeeding group and connect with nursing moms on the <a href="http://forums.ivillage.com/ivillage/?category.id=iv-psbreastfeed" target="_hplink">iVillage breastfeeding message board</a>.</br>
Let Go of Perfectionism
<br>No matter how hard you try, staying on an every-two-to three-hour feeding schedule doesn't always work. Sometimes your baby wants to eat 30 minutes after you last fed her. Sometimes you're in traffic right as your baby's feeding time is coming up and your mother-in-law has to give her a bottle. It's okay. "Every mom struggles with the feeding schedule," says Adrienne Hedger, co-author and illustrator of "If These Boobs Could Talk: A Little Humor to Pump Up the Breastfeeding Mom." "But no one is going to pop up from behind the couch and shout, 'You're doing it wrong! You should be feeding now! What's the matter with you?'"</br> <br>Your real-world agenda won't always line up with your baby's schedule, but guess what? You're not being graded on this test and the many, many benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh any scheduling snafus.</br>
Get Some Sleep
<br>One of the hardest things about breastfeeding a baby is the sleep deprivation. Round-the-clock feedings can leave you exhausted and irritable and can cause your supply to dip. So once your breast milk supply is well established (your baby has been successfully breastfeeding and gaining weight for a few weeks), get some rest by letting your partner (or a friend or relative) handle one of the nighttime feedings. Start by breastfeeding your baby (or pumping) at night right before you go to sleep. Then have your helper give your baby a bottle of pumped breast milk for the next feeding so you can get a longer stretch of sleep. (Need to build up your supply of pumped milk? Pump after one of your baby's morning feedings since your supply is strongest then.)</br> <br>You can even occassionally skip two feedings. "As long as your supply is well-established, taking one night off won't be detrimental," says Gina Ciagne, a Certified Lactation Counselor with Lansinoh Laboratories. If you're still struggling to build up your supply, then, instead of skipping a nighttime feeding, consider having your partner bring your baby to you and handle changing her diaper and putting her back down. This way, you'll just have to wake up to feed your baby and you'll be able to fall back to sleep sooner. Getting more rest can do wonders for your mood -- and be the boost you need to keep breastfeeding.</br>
Continued on iVillage
<br><a href="http://www.ivillage.com/breastfeeding-dont-give-try/6-b-140161" target="_hplink">For more breastfeeding tips, click over to iVillage.</a></br>